The importance of a good, affective Web Presence in today’s world is increasing at a very rapid pace. If you are a small business owner and you do not market your products via the internet, you are at a distinct disadvantage. I talk to small business owners in Northern Colorado very frequently and one of the things that I see trending right now is a desire on the new business owner’s part, to do it themselves. It makes sense since we are all naturally entrepreneurial.
Wanting to do as much as possible for oneself when setting up a small business is completely natural. It goes along with that entrepreneurial spirit that motivated you to start the business in the first place. Your budget is more than likely quite thin and you need to make it go as far as possible.
When starting a small business, most of us do not have investors and our funds are quite limited. This is where do-it-yourself website builders peddled through large hosting companies, such as GoDaddy and BlueHost, and cloud-based web development platforms like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace, can seem like a real value. By building your Web site on your own, you are circumventing the fees associated with hiring a professional web developer. Sure, it’s going to take more time, but time is a soft cost. It will take much less hard money out of the startup’s bank account, which can then be used for other, more important reasons. Or so the thinking goes.
I’m here to tell you that having your web site built by a professional, hopefully local web developer that has earned his or her stripes and has a good deal of experience in the field, should be your first priority when it comes to initializing your Web presence. There are many pitfalls when it comes to building a web site on your own that the peddlers of these do-it-yourself website building services are not going to convey to you. It is in their best interest that you remain completely ignorant of their services’ associated perils. Your loss is their gain.
Disadvantages of DIY Websites
Needless to say, there are a number of negative unintended consequences that go along with the intended goal of creating a free web site. I have outlined the big ones in the following list:
- The tagging of these website builders is sloppy and not geared toward SEO. If you are thinking you would like to SEO your site after it is built, you definitely do not want to use a DIY Website builder. Turn and run before it’s too late.
- Control of the site – the creative and technical controls available with many of the “drag and drop” services will frustrate even the most novice of web site builders. Suffice to to say that site customization is a very lethargic process.
- Advertising on your business web site. Some of these cloud-based services will offer you a low, low price of only $?? in exchange for allowing them to run ads on your site. These ads link to other sites of their customers, which in turn link back to their own top level domain. It’s beautiful. For them.
- DIY Website builders are a time glutton. The learning curve for someone to use these cloud-based services can be quite high. If time is money, this can be a very expensive way to go.
- Amateurish branding is probably not what you want. You get what you pay for. When the service you are receiving is free, you cannot expect much in return. These sites do not tend to have a very professional look and feel to them, which is quintessential for new customer sales.
- Who owns the code? You guessed it! This is the one that gets me really fired up, folks. Let’s say you build a website via a DIY builder like Wix. Down the road a bit, as your business is beginning to grow, you decide you want your site to move to a more robust platform. All of the work that you did on the design of the original site will be going down the toilet. You know why? Yup, it belongs to the DIY website builder company. You want to take that code and move it to another platform? Fuhgeddaboudit! Which is to say, that is not happening. The company where you built the site owns the code. These Web products are like Chinese finger traps. They are easy to get into, but very difficult to get out of. You sure you still want to move that web site to another platform? Okay, but you will be starting from scratch. Of course, if you read the fine print of the terms when you join Wix or Weebly, you are aware of this. And since you took a few short hours out of your day to read all that legal mumbo jumbo, you knew what you were getting in to. Sorry for the sarcasm, folks…but these companies make me sick.
Economies of Scale
Small, local web development and SEO services are going to cost you a bit more in comparison to the corporations’ fees. Small businesses do not have the ability to compete with Big Business, due to what is known as “economies of scale.” This economic principal states that by producing a higher number of products or services, the price of said production naturally trends lower. The more products or services you sell, the cheaper you are able to sell them, regardless of their value. GoDaddy and Wix have new customers coming in every day simply because of their gargantuan number of web pages in existence, a large number of whom have a link coming back to their top level domains. In other words, these big companies are using their existing clients to SEO their own pages and bring in even more unknowing customers. And the snowball continues to roll downhill, steamrolling innocent small business owners in its path.
My very fervent belief is that building one’s own web site, for marketing purposes, is almost never in small business owners’ best interest. There are exceptions to every rule and I’m sure there are people out for whom the benefits of said services outweigh the costs. However, they are few and far between. Almost everyone that I have spoken to who has built a web site on their own has had to have it redesigned at some point.
Some will say that I am biased due to my interest in creating web sites for small business owners in Northern Colorado, and that this whole blog posting is simply a covert way for me to take back some of the business that has migrated to these DIY website generators in recent years. But the truth is that, indirectly, these DIY website creators have brought me a lot of business in the form of website redesigns. To get a site out of Wix, for example, and into another content management system like WordPress, is a very difficult process. In most cases, once a site has been created via the malevolent, it is best to start over from scratch.
Also, as a web developer with over a decade of experience, I see things from a different perspective than most. By looking at how these do-it-yourself website platforms are marketing their own services, as well as a general understanding of how the Internet works, I have a rather good sense of clarity on this issue. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I absolutely hate seeing people being taken advantage of, especially when it’s a David versus Goliath scenario. The DIY website builders are taking advantage of small business owners while posing as angelic providers of free and valuable services for the little guy. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!
Local vs. Corporate SEO
What we as local, small business owners do have over the competition is pride and passion for our local communities, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit that matches your own. These big corporations want on thing: your money. The return on investment that you will receive from the service they are selling? That’s just a talking point. They will sell you services that do not need, do not understand, and that do not have positive financial return on investment and then allow those charges to recur month after month, until or unless you as the customer of their services become restless. Then, when you try to contact them to discontinue the services, or perhaps quantify the results of your marketing efforts, they will up-sell you to another product that is way over budget and deals with the shortcomings of the original product. From here the process begins again. If by chance they are not able to fast-talk you once again and retain your bank account information, it’s really not a big loss for them. There is another sucker that will take your spot on the next incoming call, and they know this.
If you are working with a local Web developer or an SEO, you should be getting monthly or quarterly reports that relate to your Web presence. If you have questions on how your website was built, how to edit it, or any type of technical question regarding your site, you can pick up the phone or shoot off an email knowing that we are going to get back to you with a solution to your problem as soon as humanly possible. It is in our best interest to do so. We want to keep your business through proactive web strategy and clear cut positive results to you, our local customers. We know that if we do an outstanding job for you, you are going to tell your business colleagues. We are social creatures and it only follows human nature that we like to share our great business endeavors with our peers. We are proactive; they are reactive.
If after reading this blog post you still feel that the benefits of creating your own website outweigh the costs, then by all means give it a shot! I am an adventurous soul myself, so I can relate. I just wish someone had written a blog article outlining the hidden costs of a house remodel before I ventured off into that area. We live and we learn.
The big website building companies are not trying to provide you with a product that will produce value for your small business. They are trying to sell you a product for which they can charge you and that is very difficult to get out of being charged for. Read the fine print. Consider your options carefully. Write out a list of pros and cons. And then go to the search engines and run a search for a local web developer.